Zero Trust as a Third-Party Risk Management Solution

6 minute read

June 2022

According to a Microsoft survey, more than 40% of workers are considering quitting their jobs this year as part of the Great Resignation. Four million people departed their employment in the United States alone in April, falling just short of the record 4.5 million who resigned in March. A recent Deloitte survey, reports that two-in-five Gen Zers and one-quarter (24%) of millennials want to leave their current jobs by next year. Many more are expected to join the crowds in the coming months as they seek higher pay, more flexible working conditions, and new challenges.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the manufacturing industry has been hit the hardest from pre-pandemic to late 2021, with resignations increasing by about 60%. In the same span, quit rates in the leisure and hospitality industries increased by 43%, while “other services” rates increased by 41%.

All of this has clear consequences for hiring and personnel with the added potential to cause security problems. Companies that failed to implement security standards during the previous 18 months properly have already expressed worry about shifting to remote work. Now companies have to be concerned about whether the firms they partner with have the correct policies to ensure that departing employees do not take important information or sensitive files. Adopting a zero-trust strategy, which establishes trust with your third parties as earned, not implied, can help your organization avoid security risks related to the Great Resignation. So it is now vitally important that your third-party risk management program has the ability to standardize zero-trust internally and externally.

Challenges Organizations Face Due to the Great Resignation

Over the years, there have been examples of employees selling files to competitors or utilizing such data for illegal purposes. According to Code42’s research, about three-fourths (71%) of respondents are concerned about a lack of visibility into what and how much sensitive data departing employees take with them to other firms. A similar percentage (71%) is concerned about sensitive data stored on departing employees’ local devices, personal hard drives, and personal cloud storage and services.

These worries are based on real-world examples of cybersecurity threats companies could potentially face. Contractors, vendors, resellers, and technology partners are examples of third-party users who require access to internally hosted resources and sensitive PII data or IP. They can be located across all time zones using a variety of unmanaged devices, adding to the complexity. As a result, third-party breaches have increased: an estimated 51% of organizations have experienced a third-party data breach according to Security Magazine.

TPRM and Vendor Risk Assessments

Companies now interact with hundreds and sometimes even thousands of vendors, each with their own agents and subcontractors. A few of the challenges organizations now face include identifying and grouping critical vendors by risk tier, and establishing a process for internal and external review. In this vast network, third-party hazards can appear at any time, making initial and ongoing vendor risk assessments important.

Vendor risk assessments are a key element in the due diligence process, evaluating and approving potential vendors and suppliers to see if they meet the organization’s service requirements and risk tolerance levels before any contracts are signed. Throughout the relationship, continuous assessments help determine if the service meets expectations and pinpoint changes in risk levels. and duties once the contract is signed. The ultimate goal is to build and maintain a portfolio of low-risk, best-in-class vendors and suppliers.

Many businesses have failed to track vendor risks per internal policies and certifications. Companies can use zero-trust security measures to establish frameworks for improved security, reduce third-party risks, and ensure compliance. For all aspects of your systems, but especially when it comes to zero-trust and vendor assessments, having a robust log and audit capacity is critical.

Up until recently, “Trust but verify” has been the standard edict for third-party risk management. However, due to increased third-party cybersecurity incidents, the focus has now shifted to “never trust, always verify.” It’s not enough to assume that your third parties have robust security practices based on their reputation or history. Their true risk levels must be evaluated on a continual basis via objective risk assessments.

Every company has its own partners and subcontractors, which can be dangerous, so knowing how far down the chain companies have to go to feel secure is why zero-trust should be implemented by all companies that use third parties. Zero-trust can help ascertain the areas of weakness in your supply chain, providing you with better visibility into mitigating these risks.

Solving Third-Party Risk Management Challenges Through Automation

According to an Opus & Ponemon study, enterprises exchange personal and sensitive information with an average of 583 third parties. Consider how vastly different security can be across these 583 third parties. All it takes to trigger a breach is a security mishap or oversight at one vendor with inadequate security controls. The point here is that you need to verify security at each and every vendor you share data with. Doing so will require formalized processes for evaluating and managing third-party risk.

Due to the ever-increasing number of breaches being reported on an almost daily basis, there’s significant reason to tune-up your TPRM processes. Third-party involvement was one of the factors in a breach, according to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, raising the data breach cost by more than $370,000, for an adjusted average total cost of $4.29 million. As a result, businesses are putting money into developing third-party risk management (TPRM) frameworks and automating their vendor risk management (VRM) processes.

Organizations’ exposure to third-party risk and fourth-party risk expands as their reliance on third parties grows. TPRM automation can help you manage a growing vendor population with more agility as it speeds up typically onerous processes – onboarding, initial due diligence and ongoing assessments.
As many enterprises are turning to technology to help scale their vendor risk teams across their ever-growing vendor pool, they capitalize on four other key benefits:

1. Saving Time and Money

Automating your third-party risk management process means less time wasted and more employees and resources dedicated to higher, risk-mitigating tasks. Automated workflows, scheduled notifications, and intelligently-scoped questionnaires reduce administrative, time-consuming tasks. As a result, your TPRM team can focus on communicating and implementing zero trust principles internally and throughout your vendor population.

2. Streamlined Vendor Risk Assessments

Streamlined Vendor Risk Assessments powered by automation will help companies determine questionnaire scope and complete assessments for more vendors in less time. Poorly scoped assessments across hundreds of vendors would consume hours of time manually for the vendor and analyst. Automation eliminates the need for manual assessment distribution, response reconciliation and the excessive time required to manage these processes.

3. Better Reporting

TPRM automation helps organizations better monitor and communicate the risk associated with a certain third or fourth party. Key metrics and data are rolled up into interactive reports and dashboards that provide real-time access to the state of third-party risk with continuous updates. Automation aids in analyzing third parties with data collection security levels and provides proactive security measures.

4. Integration with Other TPRM Tools

Third-party risk management success is maximized when your strategy is integrated across the entire organization. Companies can enhance their program with auditing software, CRM, compliance management software, or connecting external news feeds and enterprise systems for full visibility into vendor risk. Incorporating TPRM automation with other business applications provides faster and time-sensitive insight into vendor risk and potential breach events through every aspect and department of an organization.

The benefits of implementing third-party risk management automation can place your company in a better position to succeed in the long term even with employee turnover. Company progress and reputation, and trust with other vendors and partners can be put at great risk otherwise. But by proactively managing risk and fortifying your entire organization, you can better guarantee the protection of sensitive information and ward off potential cybersecurity threats.

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About Us

ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit